Overview of “The Biggest Loser – Reality TV Program
Preview of the series program
A reality TV is a programming that usually not scripted and involves ordinary people competing for prizes or certain titles. “The Biggest Loser” is one of the popular reality TV shows in Australia. It originated from a similar show in America with a similar name. Crackerjack Productions together with Network Ten produce and screen the program respectively. Since its airing on February 2006, it was hosted by Ajay Rochester until 2010 when Hayley Lewis took over. The series features contestants with varying levels of weight competing to shed off the maximum weight. The America show measures weight loss in pounds whereas the Australian measures in tenths of kilograms. The losing of weight is guided by personal trainers. Shannan Ponton has been working with Michelle Bridges as trainers who took over from Bob Harper and Jillian Michael, the latter being of American origin. This was from Season 2 of the series made up of seven seasons with a total of 139 episodes. Season 1 to 3 were filmed in the outskirts of Sydney, Terrey Hills. From season 4, they were filmed in Fitzoy Island, Queensland before being filmed in Sydney (Adorno 1991 pp. 34).
Season 1 was first aired on February 13, 2006 followed by Season 2 aired from February 4 of 2007. Season 3 aired as from February 3 of 2008. An interesting Season 4, involving contesting couples, featured as from February 1 2009 followed by Season 5 featuring as from 31st January 2010. The season featured the two trainers, Shannan Ponton and Michelle Bridges, as well as the former Olympic swimmer Hayley Lewis together. Steve Willis also known as the Commando was introduced alongside Tifinny Hall as trainers in 2010.
Outline for Season 1
Season 1 began airing as from the 3rd of February 2006 at 7:00 pm on the Network Ten channel, on weekdays. It went through until its last episode on the 27th of April the same year. The Season was directed by Ian Stevenson. The winner, who had lost the most weight from the contestants, was awarded $200,000. The show was hosted by Australia’s Ajay Rochester, who was accompanied by American based trainers Jillian Williams and Bob Harper. 12 contestants were selected to reaching the completing exercise, from a group of over six thousand Australians. The starting weight range was noted to be by Fiona and David who weighed 101 kilograms and 196 kilograms respectively (Graham, 2006 pp. 78).
Outline for Season 2
Season 2 began airing on the same channel as was in Season 1 from the 4th of February 2007. Trainers were still the same as in Season 1 with an addition of Steve Willis, commonly referred to as “commando”. At the start of the contests, weights of 108 kilograms by Mil and 216 kilograms by Damien were the noted range. During the contest however, some issues came up. This included the quitting of a contestant, medical conditions by another two and the “The Walk”. “The Walk” was to provide individual exercise and power of how to tackle the game secretly. Chris and Kimberlie had been practicing with the commando secretly as they went on with their daily lives before joining the contesting group. Strife was experienced after Chris was announced the third loser. After clarifications, Chris Garling was observed to have lost 70.1 kilograms making him the winner. He was awarded A$200,000. The season came to a close some time that year.
Outline for Season 3
At the end of Season 2, contestants were informed to apply for Season 3 which would take place in 2008. The Season still featured on the Network Ten Channel. Trainers were the same as in Season 2. The starting weight range was noted to be from 111kilograms by Carriane to 206 kilograms by Garry. The same winning procedure was applied as in the previous Seasons, with the highest weight loser awarded A$200,000. This was awarded to Sam Rouen, a student from the university, on the 1st of May 2008.
Outline for Season 4
At the end of the third season, it was announced that a contest for couples (with any kind of relation) would take place the following year. Initially, the contest took place at the White House found in Duffy’s Forest. Neighbors complaining of stinking property forced the team to move to Fitzoy Island, at the coast of Queensland in Sydney. The Season began airing on the first day of February 2009. It was comprised of ten overweight couples with a range starting from 102 kilograms by Mel to Sharif who weighed 178 kilograms. Each couple was to compete against the others. Bob Herdsman who was 57 years was recorded the oldest weight loser on April the same year after losing 87.6 kilograms. However, on the 16th of May it was announced that The Biggest Loser had been hosted by Ajay for the last time (McLuhan 1994 pp. 48).
Outline for Season 5
This season that featured as from January 2010 on the Network Ten channel also involved contesting couples. Ajay was replaced by Hayley Lewis as the host. Trainers were Shannon Ponton being accompanied by Michelle Bridges. One of the couples, comprising of James Ward and his sister, quit the show after Ward being charged with child pornography. However, a winner was declared on 18th April the same year. Lisa Hose earned herself $185,000 after emerging the first female winner.
Outline for Season 6
Towards the end of Season 5, Hayley Lewis announced that the next Season would feature families and that interested contestants were to begin with their application. Groups of four family members would contest for the awarding of the Greatest Loser title. It began airing at the end of January 2011. The four groups/ teams were the Duncans, Westrens, Challenors and the Moons. Emma Duncan lost the highest weight of 61.2 kilograms, thereby being awarded $100,000. However, the family title went to the Westrens, who also received $100,000 at the finale (Bellamy 1998 pp. 56).
Outline for Season 7
Host Lewis confirmed the featuring of Season 7 during the grand finale of Season 6. The show would be a single contest. It would start airing on the Tens channel as from January 23rd, 2012. However, the featuring of the show was not in accordance to the Australian Open as well as The Big Bang.
Analysis of the Program
How It Produces Reality
Mediation is the process of balancing two opposing aspects and bringing them into equilibrium by use of a certain medium. In relation to media, this medium is communication and viewing. For the Biggest Loser, the two opposing forces are the carrying of the current excess weight versus the attitude of getting rid of the excess weight. The balancing factor is the instructions they get and do from the trainers. Reality is brought out by the viewing of the program. The broadcasting of reality TV shows has become popular over the years. Nowadays, one cannot afford to escape from watching the shows since they are featured in every station. These many different stations specialize on a certain subgenre of reality for example; The Biggest Losers deals with weight loss. By frequently being featured by the media, these programs act as a form of reality to the viewers since most people believe in the media (Bolter & Richard 1999 pp.38).
Through Construction Of Real Life Situations
The reality TV produces reality by use of real life situations. It shows the views factors that directly affect them. Moreover, the contestants are ordinary people competing for a certain prize. These people portray the life of a common human being. Taking the example of The Biggest Losers, weight is something that affects many people. Through the media, viewers can see various people with different weight levels struggling to lose some of it. Viewers can easily identify with this, hence providing reality. By watching the series and seeing how people lose weight after enough exercise, they believe that it truly can occur unto them. This is because they can see the conditions of the contestants before and after and how much of a difference they would have made. They too get the confidence of that reality of losing weight occurring to them after sufficient exercise and practices (Thwaites & Mules 2002 pp. 12).
Techniques Applied On The Program
Narration is a common technique in reality TV shows. It comprises of a voice being heard from the background. Its main aim is to connect scenes that would have otherwise not have been filmed. Moreover, it provides more information that could not be displayed on stage. The narrator in The Biggest Loser is J.D.Roth who is also the Executive producer and creator of the show. At the beginning of the show, a voice is heard welcoming people to the show. The main purpose for the narration in The Biggest Loser is to provide order and direction. For instance, when a voice is heard welcoming back the contestants and reminding them of their goal for coming. The voice encourages the contestants before proceeding with the show.
This a technique used to portrayed facts and truths that are to be accepted as they are by viewers. The aim of documentaries is to provide reality. Most award winners are normally followed up after some time to check on their progress. “Confessions of a Reality Show” documentary was aired after a follow up on Erick Chopin who was observed trying to lose weight at home after going back to his old habits. The effect of a documentary in relation to a reality TV show is to provide a continuity of a preciously watched session and to check up on the award winners.
Technology has boosted the airing of reality shows in a great way. Cameras and screens used at the shows are of high-tech. With the advent of twitter and facebook, the shows have fan pages where they write their suggestions and also communicate with other fans. Some phones are of a high technology such that one is able to view the show. The shows have created websites that can be visited by their fans in case of any clarification. For the curious ones, they can Google the final result or how a certain episode will end.
Concepts from Tutorials
Simulation: Simulation is the process of creating a similar model of an original entity. The main reason behind this is to be able to understand the controlling aspects and even predict the future. It is used t study the adaptations of a system in a new environment. Reality TVs are a simulation of reality. Since it is a TV show, the people who appear on it act like people. They create a different but similar image of themselves so as to fit into the show. The Biggest Loser for example has to determine the winner by the end of the show. The contestants hence do certain things, which they would not do in their normal lives, sine they are expected to do so. That is why cases involving winners who get back to their previous eating and living practices exist. The reason is that the reality show was just meant to be displayed to the viewers.
Simulacrum: It simply means imitation of something. It is the replacing of reality with a representation. This affects reality TVs like The Biggest Loser. According to the show, a representation of the real thing is given so as to make viewers believe in their methods of doing things. The weight loss could be exaggerated to show the positive effect on someone who participates in the show. It creates a false truth in people’s minds and putting away the real truth.
The play of fact/ fiction: The reality TV shows have a mixed reaction from different people. To some, they view it as a successful method of getting rid of something like weight. Others view it as factual and don’t believe that someone can lose so much weight in such as short duration of time. The shows really want to prove their methodologies perfect, but in reality, all this is fiction and they just serve as an entertainment factor to the viewers.
Hyperconsciousness: This word is normally referred to as “lovable stress”. It is a condition whereby the mind does not operate at its normal state. The brain acquires an extra energy for these operations to take place. Reality TV shows are normally incorporated with hyperconsciousness. For the Biggest Loser, a contestant generates so much energy when they get hyper with the fact that they want to win the title or a prize. They generate adrenaline that gives them the driving force.
Myth: A myth is a concept that is generally viewed as truthful but not factual. In most reality TVs, this concept is applied. For instance, when a character in a certain series dies, it is real and true according to that environment. However, in the real sense they are still alive. It becomes a myth such that when people discuss the series they sometimes refer to a character as the one who was killed by so and so. This concept is not fully implemented in The Biggest Loser, as all actions are real and in case of death or quitting of a contestant, it is actually true that that action has occurred in real life.
Tabloidization: Tabloidization is a concept applied in the media that involves the shifting from the usual government news and venturing into entertainment based topics like lifestyles or follow up of a scandal. Reality TVs have based their shows on this concept to capture and entertain their fans. The Biggest Loser reality TV incorporates this concept as it involves weight loss and it directly affects the lives of contestants. The eating lifestyle of the contestants is altered and the results noted after a period of time. Watching people struggle with their weights can be interesting and this is why the Big Loser incorporates tabloidization.
Celebrity: A celebrity is a person perceived with a high profile in the society and is popular. He or she demands attention whenever they go. Thus is a concept that is considered a must implemented in any reality TV show. Actually, most people watch these shows since they are familiar with some of the people forming the team. Their loyalty towards them invites them to watch the various shows in which the celebs are featured. Many celebrities make up the crew of the Biggest Loser reality show. Some of the celebs featured include Anna Kournikova, a tennis pro, who joined the show in order to replace Jillian Michaels. The music played during the show is by celebrities. For instance, the music played in Season four is “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera. The official soundtrack of the series featured a collection of celebrities. They included Shakira, Kelly Clarkson, The Black Eyed Peas as well as Fatboy Slim.
The Biggest Loser is a reality show that incorporates various techniques to come up with wonderful shows. Various concepts are implemented too. These are some of the various reasons why the show will remain popular and widely watched. However some professionals working for the show have stated their dislike. This is because of the inappropriate methods of training involved, most of which is done extremely. Some of the pros of the show include accountability whereby all contestants have to lose some weight by the end of a season. The spirit of competition is also a motivating factor that encourages the contestants to work hard. Hope and inspiration is instilled into the viewers when a record is set by someone who loses so much weight in a span of little time. The main disadvantage of the show is that the contest is based on weight loss instead of the composition of someone’s body.
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Bellamy, R., V. (1998) Journal of Media Economics.
Bolter, J. & Richard G. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press, Cambridge.
Graham, P. (2006) Hyper capitalism: New Media, Language and Social Perceptions of Value. New York, Peter Lang. New York.
McLuhan, M. (1994) Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man. MIT Press, Cambridge.
Thwaites,T. & Mules, W. (2002) Introducing Cultural and Media Studies: A Semiotic Approach, Palgrave, London.